Injury hit Liam Norwell takes nine wickets on final day as Warwickshire beat Hampshire by five runs to avoid relegation from County Championship Division One and send Yorkshire down[noscript_1]
The final day of the County Championship season created extraordinary drama as Warwickshire secured First Division status at the skin of their teeth and Yorkshire relegated to the last gasp.
Liam Norwell, who started the outgoing champions last game under an injury cloud, took a remarkable nine for 62 and 13 wickets in the game when Hampshire was sent six runs short of their modest win goal of 139.
That meant Warwickshire avoided the shame of relegation just a year after taking the championship and the double Bob Willis Trophy and added further misery to Yorkshire at the end of their tumultuous year as they tried to rectify the racism scandal of Azeem Rafiq.
Liam Norwell produced a stunning performance as Warwickshire miraculously held up
It was an exciting end to the domestic campaign and one that provided huge ammunition for provinces fighting Sir Andrew Strauss’s proposal in his High Performance Review to reduce the championship by four games per season.
The great old competition looked very fit for purpose on a final day when all eyes – nearly 18,000 pairs of them on the Edgbaston YouTube feed alone at the height of the drama – were on Warwickshire’s struggle for survival.
They seemed confident they would be relegated along with Gloucestershire at a particularly inopportune moment, with Strauss proposing a first division of six teams in 2024, when they were sacked for 177 to leave Hampshire, which seemed a routine target.
But Norwell, who has played just four Championship games in an injury-ridden season, produced the feat of a lifetime to shake Hampshire and deny them the second-place finish that seemed certain at the start of the final round.
Warwickshire avoided the shame of relegation just a year after taking the championship and the double Bob Willis Trophy
Norwell, an England Lions bowler last winter, bowled almost unchanged for 18.5 overs, taking the last nine wickets to fall after the equally lion-hearted Oliver Hannon-Dalby made the first breakthrough in sacking Felix Organ.
It looked like Hampshire, who have battled to two defeats in their last two games for the title to two defeats in their last two games, would deny Warwickshire and save Yorkshire when Nick Gubbins and James Fuller, having been reduced to 91 for seven , on 33 moves for the eighth wicket .
But a change of ball, one of the stories of the summer, proved pivotal as Norwell tricked Gubbins with a questionable lbw decision before taking the last two wickets in four balls.
Cue pandemonium and a welcome shot in the arm for English red ball cricket at a time when it is under threat as rarely before to follow the English Test transformation this summer.